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Question Number: 33565

Law 11 - Offside 8/10/2019

RE: Competitive Adult

Peter of Hjorring , Denmark asks...

Im a bit unsure about an incident in todays Man City match but its quite possibly just a misconception. I was under the impression that a player was offside if any part of his body that he can score with is in front of the second last defender. Well as it was Sterlings arm or shoulder that appeared to make him offside and he cant score with that part of his anatomy, why was it offside?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Peter,
it was close but at the time of that 1st contact it appeared the lean of the head & shoulder which CAN play the ball legally by the way, only the arm/hand is not permitted, the top of the shoulder is fine. The VAR manages to freeze frame everything in 3 d including the positional rotation of the body suspended in the air. If there was no goal it was deemed a playable body part was closer . You are correct the hands and arm are NOT considered!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Peter
VAR is set up in a way that part of a foot can put a player in an offside position.
I believe Hawkeye is the chosen provider in the EPL so that even if a sliver of an attacking player is beyond the second last opponent it will be called offside.
You are correct that hands and arms are not included yet I believe there a part of Sterling, that could legally play the ball, was beyond the imaginary offside line for it to be called.
Once the attacking line on the screen is beyond the defensive line it is offside even if it is centimetres.
If VAR can pick up part of a ball over the goal line it can certainly pick up a body part beyond the second last defender. FIFA videos have showed the tight tolerances of these calculations.
I personally think that with VAR that Law 11 should be amended to provide for clearer distances between opponents such as all of the body being beyond the second last defender. In this case it looked like Sterling was clearly onside which in a way should be onside rather than say a player's right foot only in making a step. The problem for the game is that the Law must work for all levels not just VAR. Without VAR that would not have been called and they are plenty of other incidents including the encroachment by Rice at the penalty kick necessitating a retake that in the past would not have been called.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Peter,
The official reason given by the IFAB why the hands and arms are not included in the offside determination is not related to parts of the body that can be used to score a goal - according to the FAQ it is because, ''This view is supported by and helps assistant referees throughout the world as it is often difficult to identify the exact position of the hands and arms.''

Anyway, whatever the rationale for it, in this particular incident and others similar to it, the debatable point for me (and others who I've seen discussing the issue) is exactly where you consider the demarcation line to be, between arm and shoulder. It seems to me that the line they used here and in other VAR-determined offside decisions comes down from round about the arm pit, and I'm not sure that's the right point to use.

Also, it does seem a little unfair that such a debatable and infinitesimal margin could cause a goal to be ruled out and like ref McHugh, I feel that the IFAB should consider requiring a greater margin on offside position before the player is considered to be offside.

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Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

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